Computer Gamer1st November 1986
Published in Computer Gamer #20
The Best Of Beyond
While waiting for Startrek, you might like to sample the quality for the backlog of Beyond. Four games on a tape for £9.95 may not be unusual in the present climate of budget bargains but four games from Beyond can't be ignored.
The Spectrum and the Commodore versions both contain the Shadowfire/Enigma Force twin action adventures programmed by Denton Designs. On the Spectrum these are teamed with Mike Singleton's Doomdark's Revenge with its accompanying audio tape story and the Nick Eatock and Simon Welland collaboration, Sorderon's Shadow.
The Commodore version has Mike Singleton and Warren Foulkes' Quake Minus One coupled with Psi Warrior.
Keeping the best until last, I'll look at the games which differ on each tape, starting with the Spectrum version.
Doomdark's Revenge is the follow-up to Lords Of Midnight and has retained the special 'landscaping' feature of its predecessr. The strong atmosphere of the tapes results from the imaginative use of graphics coupled with verbal description.
The landscaping feature allows you to view the surrounding area through the eyes of Luxor the Moonprince or through those of the characters he controls by the power of the Moonring. The scene can be scanned at eight points of the compass before deciding to move on. As you meet and befriend more controllable characters, the game becomes more and more complex.
The storyline continues the tale of the Lords of Midnight but many moons have passed. Shareth the Heartstealer has sworn revenge for the death of her father, the vanquished Lord Doomdark, and plots the downfall of Luxor, his slayer.
Such is the nature of this game that I can say little more of the aims and aspirations as much is left to your own desires. At the lowest level you can seek out Luxor's son, Morkin, release him from Shareth's spell of enchantment and then return home to the Gate of Varenorm.
The greatest victory is the destruction of Shareth and the safe return of Luxor, his son and his main allies Tarithel and Rorthron.
Whatever degree of success you settle for, the game can hinge on the life of Morkin. Should he be killed, Luxor has no other recourse than to wreak his revenge on Shareth at all costs. This is all the more difficult because Luxor is weakened by the grief of his son's death.
Commands are issued by single keypresses which will either move a character or deliver information on the locations and armies that you meet. Because the game is played against the computer it is different each time and recruiting a character in one game doesn't mean he will be as co-operative in the next. All the time you are moving about making alliances and fighting battles the computer is behaving in a similar way.
All this results in a complex but enjoyable game which should have paved the way for historically-based strategy games to follow. Alas, we still await these heights of perfection.
Sorderon's Shadow is similar but simpler in concept to Doomdark's Revenge, yet still has a lot to offer because its objectives are more defined.
There are nine tasks to be completed and each is detailed in the game's leaflet, along with a few hints as to how best these may be achieved. Your ultimate goal is to wrest the Scroll of Immortality from the evil tyrant wizard, Sorderon.
The map for the adventure is based on a very large grid which allows movement to eight compass points. Each location is accompanied by an excellent image of the scene and, as days pass, this is marked by the scenes changing from bright day to moonlit night. A skull also helps mark the approach of night as it gradually rises in an icon screen until its eyes flash when the powers of night are abroad.
Part of the game is the planning of the order in which to achieve your tasks and in the selection of objects which will be of use to you. Mapping is also important and I defy anyone to complete the game without resorting to this.
I can think of no other game with which to complement Doomdark's Revenge.
Quake Minus One is a strategic battle of the future. The Robot Liberation Front are trying to seize the Titan power station deep beneath the Atlantic. Their aim is to sabotage the Titan complex and cause widespread destruction with the tidal waves created by the resultant earthquake.
The complex is controlled by five computers which command a series of assault weapons. At the start of the game only one of the Titan computers is under your control and the mission is to take charge of, or destroy, the other four. When you take control of a computer the vehicles and warning systems also come under your control.
The console allows you to switch from vehicle to vehicle but you must maintain control over Hermes, your only computer. If the renegades take control the game ends.
To gain control of the other computers, you must first recapture the junctions of the routes passing through the complex. To do this, you first examine the expanded map and choose a vehicle close to an occupied junction. If the road is controlled by your forces this shouldn't cause too much trouble but if one of the roads is controlled by the RLF you can expect some serious opposition from other vehicles and the surrounding installations.
Each vehicle has a complex control system which must be mastered so that you can flick from panel to panel to attack, fire and run. You must manage the defence systems of the vehicle expertly when under attack so that you don't lose too many vehicles to enemy weapons.
The game takes a lot of effort to understand, but it is the kind of game which makes you come back for more as new strategies occur to you. The action screens are a joy to behold and it's a real mean game.
Psi Warrior is much more esoteric as you battle against Psi and Id creatures that have taken over the circular terraces inside a silo. The Psi Warrior patrols these levels on hover plane which can only be described as a futuristic skateboard.
The silo is controlled by the Source which must be defeated by increasing your psi and id energy. This is done by netting the creatures and absorbing their energy. If the creatures elude your nets they will drain some of your energy.
As you progress to deeper and deeper levels the creatures become stronger and you must have sufficiently developed mental power to overcome them and increase your strength. Development brings new powers so that the warrior can levitate, teleport and render himself invisible to the Source's powers.
There are all manner of ramps, falls and jumps which may damage your hover plane and affect your speed. The plane is self repairing but this takes time leaving you open to attack.
Of all the games in the two compilations, this was the least satisfying and I found it too repetitive to really merit inclusion in such an excellent collection.
Now we come to two of the best games ever written: Shadowfire and Enigma Force. Both the machine versions are so similar that they can be discussed together.
The Enigma Force is an elite fighting team who have been chosen to rescue Ambassador Kryxix from the inquisitors of General Zoff. Zoff knows that Kryxix has the plans to a new craft, the Shadowfire, which would allow its owner to planet hop. If the General gets his hands on these plans the Empire would be at his mercy.
The Enigma team consist of a motley crew of aliens and droids. Each have their own special background of gun running. He is an excellent scout and is an expert in explosive and weaponry.
Sevrina Maris is the only woman on the team and is also the most dangerous. On Torik's recommendation she was recruited from the death cell on Kerol because of her skills as a locksmith and markswoman.
Maul is a weapons droid which is slow moving and, though excellent at self preservation, untested in combat.
The final member is another droid called Manto. Its prime function is to operate the teleporter and, as a vital key to the team's success, must be protected at all cost.
The mission is icon-driven with each character being controlled separately. The graphic display is impressive with each selected character being shown in a box to the right of the action screen.
After using Manto's skills to beam the team aboard Zoff V, you must control the team as they search the ship for Ambassador Kryxix. A selection of useful weapons have been alloted to each member during a selection session before beaming aboard. Now is the time to see if your strategy will work.
Enigma Force continues the story after Kryxix has been delivered into the Empire's safe hands. Zoff, though captured, has triggered off an intergalactic war and the Force, minus Manto, are escorting him to face the wrath of the Emperor.
As their craft passes over Syyik's home planet, Zoff concentrates his psi powers causing engine failure and the team plunge to a crash landing in the underground city on the planet. A battle rages here between Zoff's reptiloid storm troopers and the insectoids. When the Enigma Force recover consciousness, Zoff is gone.
The mission once more is to apprehend Zoff but first the insectoids must accept the team as allies. This is done by contacting their leader and then you can fight alongside them to conquer Zoff's hordes.
Meanwhile Zoff is making his way towards an escape craft which he hopes will whisk him off the planet before the approaching destructor tugs totally wipe out the planet. Only the Enigma Force can stop him.
In a similar way to Shadowfire the team members are controlled by icon selection. The system is far better than before because the actions can be strung together for each character. On the Spectrum the buffer can take five commands but the Commodore can hold eight. Even when you deselect the character in favour of another one, they will still perform their pre-programmed tasks.
The action screen shows 3D animated scenes and the characters can be moved about at will. Each time a new character is selected the scene changes to their current location. If an unselected character comes under attack, a speech bubble appears over the icon stating what the problem is.
This is a very complex game to play but the rewards are some of the most exciting action scenes ever seen on a computer screen. As battle is joined the Enigma Force, insectoids and reptiloids can all be seen in pitched battle against one another.
Although I don't wish to detract from the excellence of either version, I must say that the Spectrum game is easier to control and visually more appealing than the C64 game.
The package generally is lacking in the quality of the documentation. It takes quite some time to understand the rather complex descriptions and the Enigma Force duet are particularly confusing and bitty.
As you may gather, I have a great deal of respect for the Beyond programmers and this collection is one of the absolute essentials for any Christmas list.